Wednesday, January 12, 2011

On a Space "Code of Conduct"

There has been a good bit of discussion in the past few weeks about a "Code of Conduct" for space. Leonard David's article in Space News ( spoke to the need for such a code and what it might entail.  My feeling is we are already working on this.  The bits and pieces that might make up a future code are included in the technical standards we have been working on for the past several decades.  A specific example of current activity is the publication of new standards on orbital debris mitigation.  ISO 24113: Space Debris Mitigation Requirements is the top level document of this set. In the standards community, misconduct for space can be, and is, considered as non-compliance with the current, published, open requirements that make up standards.
David includes an interview with Laura Grego, a scientist for the Global Security Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists in Cambridge, Mass and she suggests a Code of Conduct compliant "space actor should

•Give notice of an impending launch
•Construct the satellite to encompass relevant safety and reliability standards
•Coordinate the satellite's orbit and communications frequencies with other users to prevent physical and electromagnetic interference
•Be as clear as possible about what the satellite’s purpose is intended to accomplish
•Make sure that close approaches and collisions are avoided"

almost all of which is accomplished by complying with rules, regulations and standards that exist today.

We can and should do a better job, and it is simply too easy today to find examples of misconduct in space.  We do need to do a better job.  We do not need another body of rule makers, but a little help on making the bodies that exist today more effective would be a welcome step.
Unless otherwise noted, the blog posts are written by Frederick A. Slane, Executive Director of the Space Infrastructure Foundation.